It is the policy of the Austen Riggs Center (ARC, the Center) to maintain and protect the patient’s fundamental human, civil, constitutional, and statutory rights, in accordance with Federal and State laws. In as much as the Center is an open, non-restrictive treatment environment, the civil rights of patients are the same as those of any citizen of the United States. There are no privileges to earn and there is no forfeiture of freedom: patients are not coerced to behave in any particular way nor are they compelled to participate in any part of the treatment program.
Each patient admitted to the Austen Riggs Center shall, subject to giving informed consent, receive treatment that is suited to the person’s needs, which shall be delivered skillfully, safely, and humanely with full respect for dignity and personal integrity.
The protection and enhancement of human rights is a common objective shared by all ARC staff, with a special responsibility of the Human Rights Officer to provide the leadership to safeguard human rights on a day-to-day basis. The term “human rights” refers to the values and principles intended to give full respect to the dignity and worth of each individual patient.
The Austen Riggs Center is a unique treatment setting because of its emphasis on intensive individual psychoanalytic psychotherapy in a therapeutic community, and its fully open setting. Our orientation and philosophy are based on working collaboratively with individuals whom we consider to be responsible for their own lives and safety in spite of their serious psychiatric disturbances. We do not coerce patients to behave in a particular way and do not compel participation in any part of the treatment program. We view it as the patient’s responsibility to discover his/her/their own motivation. In an open setting, the benefits of obtaining treatment while maintaining one’s freedom, integrity, and autonomy must constantly be weighed against the risks and responsibilities.
While the human rights of a patient at the Center are the same as those of any citizen of the United States, there are particular responsibilities and risks assumed by patients and their families when admission to the Center is accepted. Except in brief, emergency situations, we are not able to put a patient on suicidal precautions, nor do we confine the patient to a seclusion room, or even to the grounds of the hospital. We do not use restraints and do not medicate anyone against their will. Ultimately the patient is responsible for maintaining behavior in keeping with the demands of an open hospital. If, during the course of treatment, a patient enters a period of unacceptably high suicidal or homicidal risk or significant substance use, temporary or permanent transfer to a closed setting may be appropriate in order to protect the patient. Patients and their families have a responsibility to inform the Center of concerns they have about a patient’s safety.
The Austen Riggs Center Patient Rights Policy protects patients’ fundamental human, civil, constitutional, and statutory rights in accordance with Federal and State Laws, and JCAHO standards. The Center ensures the individual's right to quality care, access to the full range of clinical services offered by the Center regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, age or disability, the right to refuse treatment, opportunities to participate in treatment planning and care decisions including assessment and management of pain and access to a mechanism to address complaints about treatment and appeal decisions to the Department of Mental Health. The Center
recognizes the “Six Fundamental Rights of Persons Receiving Services at Inpatient Mental Health Facilities in Massachusetts” (as prepared by the Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee, 2015) Copies of these Six Fundamental Rights are posted in all patient residences and in the Medical Office Building and are available upon request.
The Austen Riggs Center also abides by Massachusetts Department of Mental Health (DMH) regulations 104 CMR 27.13: Human Rights and 104 CMR 28.03 Legal and Human Rights. These documents are attached to this policy, posted in the Admissions Office, the Medical Office Building, at all facility residences, on the Austen Riggs website and are also available upon request. (Note that none of the provisions of these regulations that apply to minors or individuals who have been adjudicated incompetent are applicable here as the Center does not accept such patients for treatment.)
At the time of admission, the patient and any family members who accompany the patient will be provided with copies of the Center’s “Consent to Treatment and Patient’s Rights” and “Notice of Privacy Practices,” which outlines the right to privacy and protection from disclosure of protected health information, full access to mail, telephone and visitors, and the right to refuse such communication.
Written copies of the Center’s “Patient Rights and Procedure for Filing a Complaint” are prominently displayed at the Inn in the Nurses Station, in the Medical Office Building, on the ARC website, and at all facility residences.
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Filing a Complaint: You have right to file a complaint if you believe that your care or treatment is inhumane, dangerous or illegal. The Human Rights Officers at the Austen Riggs Center or other staff can explain the process and help you to file a complaint. Complaint forms are available at the Reception Desk at the MOB, at the Nurses Station in the Inn, and in the offices of the Human Rights Officers.
Appeals: Decisions regarding formal complaints can be appealed beyond the Austen Riggs Center to the Department of Mental Health.
Additional information about your rights or how to obtain legal assistance may be obtained from the Austen Riggs Center Patient Handbook, from your Human Rights Officers, or from other staff.
Reporting a safety concern: To report any safety concern, please contact: Nicole May at 413.931.5310 on weekdays.
On weekends, holidays or after hours, contact: Cheryl Puntil at 413.931.5277. Please contact the available Charge Nurse for direct communication with Cheryl Puntil after hours.
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